A survey of elderly and disabled people in Lancashire has suggested two to one people are in favour of proposed changes to homecare services.
Lancashire County Council is looking at reducing the number of companies it uses to give domiciliary support.
These services are currently provided by a mix of 129 local and national, private and not-for-profit organisations, employing some 4,500 staff.
County Hall chiefs want to reduce this number to as few as 15, which they say will ensure consistently high quality support, minimise staff travel time and lead to better terms and conditions for workers.
But critics of the move believe it is being driven by cost cutting rather than improving quality, and that smaller groups with a “tried and tested” record of providing excellent care will be unable to compete with large agencies.
The council sent out a ‘Domiciliary Review Service User Consultation’ to its 6,017 service users last month.
However, only 1126 people responded – about 20 per cent – by the December 5 deadline.
It asked whether the council should use fewer homecare providers “if that leads to better quality and value for money for the taxpayer and for people paying charges”. Results showed 63 per cent replied ‘yes’, 13 per cent said ‘no’, and 25 per cent were ‘not sure’.
Some respondents commented there were a large number of providers for the council to monitor, but others said they were concerned about losing good providers who they had at present.
Around 150 companies are expected to tender for a position on a ‘preferred providers’ list. Under the plans the county would be divided into seven zones, with three to six providers working in each area.
Around 86 per cent of respondents supported the idea of homecare providers having contracts for specific areas of the county to reduce travel time and costs for staff.
Some commented that time was currently “wasted” on travelling, while others said a half hour visit could amount to “only 10 minutes actual time spent with the client”.
An overwhelming 90 per cent agreed the main areas where improvements were needed were in staff training and punctuality, continuity of care, and staff being more flexible so they could meet service users’ changing needs.
Meanwhile, 94 per cent said they wanted the council to try to ensure care workers could have a guaranteed minimum number of working hours and improved pay levels, with 86 per cent saying this would encourage people to work in homecare and improve the quality of service.